Many New Jersey residential tenants enter into written leases with their landlords. At the end of a lease, a tenant may wish to stay in the apartment. At this point, a landlord can present a new lease that typically includes different terms. These different terms can be an increase in rent, a change of the due date, change of the grace period or a change in the living terms (for example, a pet policy). If the tenant refuses the new lease changes, a landlord may seek an eviction under Section “i” of the N.J Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1i.
Subsection “i” allows a landlord to seek eviction for a tenant’s refusal to accept “reasonable changes of substance in the terms and conditions of the lease.” Although Subsection “i” seems straight forward, evicting a tenant for refusing lease changes requires more than meets the eye. It is important to note that the changes in the new lease, must be reasonable. The definition of a reasonable lease change has been shaped by a line of court opinions.
Whether a lease change is reasonable (specifically a no pet policy) was addressed in the interesting case of Royal Associates v. Concannon, 200 N.J. Super. 84 (1985). In Concannon, the tenant lived in an apartment under a two year lease. Although the landlord had a “no pets” policy, the landlord and tenant had a separate arrangement allowing the tenant to keep a dog. When the landlord tried to enforce the “no pet” in a new lease and rider, the court analyzed what is a reasonable lease change.
When determining what changes are reasonable, courts rely on the fact that an apartment, “whether occupied by a tenant under successive leases or on a month-to-month arrangement, becomes the tenant’s home.” Courts will consider what a tenant’s life was like under a prior arrangement and what changes the new lease requires. Further, what is reasonable “should be analyzed with a recognition that personal affinities towards both living quarters and pets should not be required to be sacrificed on the basis of a landlord’s whim or caprice.” For tenants this means that a landlord cannot evict a tenant when a tenant refuses to accept unreasonable lease changes. A landlord cannot, by way of new lease, expect a tenant to dramatically change their lifestyle and evict them for failing to do so.
Since the facts of each circumstance vary, a tenant should consult an attorney with his/her specific circumstances. Offit Kurman practices landlord tenant law throughout New York and New Jersey assisting tenants in avoiding unnecessary and costly delays. The firm’s geographic practice area includes: New York City (Manhattan, New York County, Brooklyn, Kings County, Queens, Queens County, Bronx County, Staten Island, Richmond County) and New Jersey (Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Hudson County, Newark, Essex County, Woodbridge, Middlesex County, Paterson, Passaic County). The Firm invites you to visit the “Promises” page for our new way of doing business. Contact us today for a guaranteed free initial consultation